The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the country and continues to do so. Researchers and physicians still do not understand all the symptoms associated with the virus or the potential long-term effects people will face. When it comes to dental health and jaw pain, however, many dentists see some connections. While jaw pain is not a direct symptom of the COVID virus, it seems to be a symptom of the pandemic, as well as a subsequent side effect after recovery. At New Leaf Rohnert Park, we understand the stress you are under during these difficult times, and we want to help you eliminate jaw pain and keep your teeth and jaw healthy.
Is TMJ pain a symptom of COVID-19?
For people with COVID-19, usual symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle aches, headaches, and a loss of taste and smell. But many people have also reported jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain during the COVID pandemic or during a COVID infection. Is jaw pain an unknown symptom of COVID? The answer is no, not directly. The virus itself does not cause jaw pain. However, there does seem to be a connection between increased jaw pain, the COVID pandemic, and post-infection recovery. But how are they connected?
1. COVID stress can result in jaw pain
In addition to causing severe sickness and death, the COVID pandemic has affected people in so many ways. Employers have closed, leaving many people struggling financially. Lockdowns have kept family and friends apart. Schools have been closed and online education has put stress on many families. With all these changes, it seems normal to expect everyone’s stress levels have increased. Unfortunately, high stress levels often lead to stiff muscles in the neck and shoulders that support the jaw, leading to pain. In addition, high stress can also cause people to grind their teeth, especially during sleep, resulting in strained jaw muscles, jaw pain, headaches, and tooth damage. If left untreated, tooth damage from grinding can lead to cavities that require dental procedures, such as root canals.
Recognizing signs of teeth grinding and clenching
The American Dental Association reports that since the start of the COVID pandemic, dentists have seen an almost 60% increase in patients with bruxism or nighttime teeth grinding. In addition, they reported TMJ symptoms in more than 50% of their patients. But how do you know if you are grinding your teeth in your sleep? Symptoms of bruxism include:
- Facial pain
- Headaches, especially in the morning
- Pain and stiffness in the jaw joint
- Disrupted sleep
- Tooth damage, resulting in increased tooth sensitivity
Untreated bruxism can result in serious tooth damage, such as cracking and chipping, as well as tooth loss. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your dentist immediately. They will likely recommend using a nighttime mouthguard to help protect your teeth and reduce jaw pain and tooth sensitivity.
2. COVID disease can contribute to jaw pain
If you contracted COVID and recovered, only to now experience jaw pain, you are not alone. The most difficult symptom for many COVID patients is difficulty breathing. In order to breathe, many are forced to breathe through their mouth. Constant mouth breathing can cause strain on the temporomandibular joint, resulting in jaw pain. In addition, when breathing becomes difficult, different muscles in the neck are often used to aid in breathing. This can also contribute to pain in the jaw and neck. Combined with the stress of infection, sickness, and other concerns connected to the COVID pandemic, many recovering patients are finding themselves dealing with jaw pain as a result.
Tips to reduce jaw pain
If you are experiencing new jaw pain resulting from the COVID pandemic or infection, it is important to talk with your dentist immediately. In the case of teeth grinding, your dentist will fit you for a nighttime mouthguard to help protect your teeth and reduce the pain you experience in your jaw. Some other tips to help reduce the jaw pain you are experiencing include:
- Apply ice to sore jaw muscles to reduce pain.
- Avoid eating hard food that requires lots of chewing as this can further aggravate the jaw.
- Do not chew gum.
- Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
- Talk with your doctor about possible exercises to help strengthen neck muscles if you have experienced COVID infection and breathing difficulty.
COVID has dramatically increased the amount of stress most people face every day, but the team at New Leaf Rohnert Park wants to help in every way we can. While we might not be able to reduce your stress, our caring dental team can help ensure your teeth are being protected and help reduce the jaw pain you are experiencing. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call our office today at (714) 242-6163 or visit us online. Together we can all make it through this pandemic with a healthy, beautiful, and pain-free smile.